Dear friends and family,
It’s the 25th! Here’s the next excerpt from upcoming Moojie Littleman Trilogy, Book 2: The Boy Who Killed Time. You will notice, the sections are not linked directly to each other, they are independent snippets that give the flavor of the book. They have not been professionally edited yet, so please forgive any typos. I look forward to hearing what you think!
In which is recounted Moojie’s disenchantment and
further indictments that drive the valiant wonder worker to undertake an impossible journey
Night was falling when Moojie and Abu rode through the gate of St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy, three miles inland in the Valley of Sorrows. They were greeted enthusiastically by Millie Mae, the dairy dog, and goats fainted to both sides, a sea of falling beards. There was an unfamiliar motorcar and a buggy parked in the yard. The cabin curtains were drawn. Despite his crisis of hunger, Abu raised a wary hand to signal for Moojie to wait while he scoped out the scene inside. He threw open the door, and took one sniff of the steamy air laden with fried onions, turkey fat, and wood smoke, and swooned.
Henry, Moojie’s bespectacled father, looked up from minding the turkey, and said, “You’re late!” His eyes, the size of robin’s eggs behind thick-lensed eyeglasses, were pink-ringed from lack of sleep, and dotted with untreated cataracts, which had precluded his mapping days. He refused to have medical treatment. He didn’t want anybody poking around his eyeballs. He rejected Moojie’s offers to heal him with inflexible determination, the reason for which he never explained. Five and a half years ago, Henry returned from his last disastrous expedition, which had been more of a diversion to avoid home life without his deceased wife, Kate, than it was a job. With a twinge of conscience, he had left Moojie with his grandfather and sailed to a remote island in the Lesser Antilles for Monk Magoon’s “import business.” At the time, he had no idea the doomed trip was meant to establish an outpost for smuggling heroin from South to North America in fruit juice cans. After weeks at sea, the ship, Sheherazade, was driven ashore in a hurricane and wrecked on the coast of Little Tobago, becoming a total loss. He, and the rest of the crew, survived by swimming ashore, only to be met by pirates. At gunpoint, they conscripted Henry to draft a letter to his bankroller to extract a ransom of thousands of Trinidadian dollars, which roughly equalled thirty-two hundred American dollars. Monk contacted an associate in Trinidad, who delivered the ransom, and Henry and the others were set adrift in a tiny fishing boat. With one oar, they were able to paddle to the main island of Tobago, where Henry enlisted to play piano on a steamship line in exchange for the fare back to America. He still owed Monk the ransom money, plus fifty-percent interest. By then, Henry’s heart had iced over concerning Moojie. After all, his adopted son had been one grand disappointment after another, and was the reason his beloved Kate ran into the path of a runaway horse carriage. Once Henry was back from the sea, he kept a low profile in San Miguel, living off piddling savings and barter, pacing his backyard in pajamas—until the pandemonium. Had it not been for Moojie, Henry, who had succumbed to a chronic state of melancholy, would have been dragged out to sea with the tidal wave following the 1906 earthquake.
“Sorry, Papa,” Moojie said, coming into the cabin behind Abu. “Say, did you see that poster in town?”
Auntie Tilda interrupted. She shoved Abu aside and presented her cheek to Moojie for a kiss. An assortment of guests emerged from candle-cast shadows to greet Moojie and refill their glasses with mulled wine. Among them, Duncan McTavish, a neighboring rancher and Scottish immigrant who had served as a Civil War field medic. He had the face of a pickled tomato, red and withered. Having noted Abu’s defensive stance, McTavish offered a mixed metaphor as a parody: “I am watching you like you are a hawk.” Red-haired Tilda laughed wickedly, taking pleasure in any opportunity to put the cheeky ranch hand in his place. Having outgrown the need to dress like an African matriarch—a progressive statement in favor of Negro freedom—she had given up the colorful bubu gowns of her earlier years in favor of woolen skirts. However, she still wore flamboyant scarves, designed and made to order after foreign flags.
“I’ve got an important announcement to make!” Henry chirped.
“Oh no,” said McTavish, Henry’s good friend. He lit a hand-rolled smoke and spit out a bit of tobacco.
“The Spirit will descend like a dove from heaven, and the multitudes will see the Chosen One of God!” Henry said, pointing the carving knife upward.
“Not yet, not yet!” McTavish said. “Let the boy settle in first.”
Monk Magoon and his driver, a giant called the Barber who looked like a dressed up ape, approached Henry. “This better be good. I want my money and I want it yesterday. I’ve got plans.” He had once been the charismatic leader of the Gang of Five, a high-rolling pimp, heroin dealer, and mercenary for the Tammany politicians. After serving a prison term for cutting out a rival’s tongue and sending it to his wife, he had set up his own wife and children in a little house in San Miguel de las Gaviotas, and bought the general store. Despite an air of sophistication, he preferred riding a bicycle, while his socialite wife, Lila, insisted on a driver and horseless carriage. “I’m gonna build a city that works,” Monk said, “like New York. I’m gonna be the next mayor and I’m gonna make San Miguel great. Casinos, show halls, hotels. It’ll be a watering hole for dignitaries. The people of San Miguel may be stupid, but they’re not fools.”
“Yea, all that,” the Barber said.
“Wait till you hear what I have planned,” Henry said. “I’ll have your money and sweeten the deal to boot.” To appease Monk, Henry had been shaving off the middling profits from Monday’s healing meetings to make payments to this dandy with criminal connections, who had bankrolled his mapping expedition. But Henry still owed two-thirds of the hefty sum that had inflated with fifty percent interest. It was only because Monk had taken a liking to Henry’s homing pigeons, that it hadn’t gotten ugly. One nice thing leading to another, St. Isidore’s—deeded by Pappy, Captain Sean Finnegan, to Moojie, and run by Henry and Tilda—was barely able to pay the bills, much less old debts.
Squirming with anticipation, Auntie Tilda gestured toward Ginny Magoon, across the room with her brother, Patrick, and mother, Lila. “Moojie, look who’s here!” Ginny, her parents, and the Barber were dressed to the nines in the latest fashions. They looked like an advertisement in Harpar’s Bazar magazine. “Go on, talk to her,” the Irish auntie chirped. A spinster, she often bewailed the tragedy of her dying a “petrified barnacle” without grandchildren. If only Moojie would marry and get on with sprouting a new family tree! “Your entire life, all you wanted was a family, and now that you can have your own, what do you want? To hold out for a Martian in outer space!” She leans closer. “Sometimes love is an apple. ’Tis too big to fit in your mouth all at once…you were a stubborn, undisciplined child. You never did what was expected of you. Marry Ginny, dear. ’Tis time to settle down with someone of the same species, for the love of St. Peter!”**